Written by Robert B. Johnson (@RobertSatellite on Twitter)
ImageIt seemed unusual for Taking Back Sunday to take its place at the We Have a Problem Festival at Houston’s Bayou Music Center. Flanked by metal and hardcore bands like Asking Alexandria and We Come As Romans, Taking Back Sunday stood out as the lone signal from a whole lot of noise.

Breaking the Ice & Changing the Crowd Dynamic

Just before Taking Back Sunday took the stage, Asking Alexandria showered Bayou Music Center with self-indulgent garbage for almost an hour. During that time, Asking Alexandria’s frontman Danny Worsnop commanded the audience to do everything he asked. He shouted lines over and over again, becoming visibly frustrated with the Houston crowd when fans didn’t buy in to his narcissistic non-sense. At one point, he screamed the words “get the fuck back” to fans in attendance in order to construct a mediocre mosh pit in the center of the crowd.

For as self-important as Asking Alexandria was on that night, Taking Back Sunday was just the opposite. In fact, singer Adam Lazzara made light of the stark contrast shortly after the band’s performance began.

“I’ve been here all day listening to other bands tell you what to do. I think that’s bullshit. I just want to get real with you.”

And that he did. Prior to “Better Homes and Darlings,” Lazzara told the story of how he found himself in a “quandary” with a girl in Tyler, Texas. The song had clear meaning to Lazzara and it shined through his performance, painting a picture of his emotions through refined facial expressions and gestures. In the end, the character he gave the live performance was much more meaningful than the amped-up screaming that was much overused by the prior act. Yet, even after putting on a beautiful performance, Lazzara still found levity in humor.

“That could have been more eloquent. I’m nervous up here.”

ImageBanter As the Bridge to Understanding

Taking Back Sunday’s catalog of music is thoughtful, if not downright intense. Popular songs like “Cute Without the E” and “MakeDamnSure” are lyrically wrenching, but full of depth. As a result, Taking Back Sunday fans find real connections with the songs, likely connecting similarities to their own life experiences. Mindful of that, Lazzara and company stopped between songs, allowing time for fans to take a breath.

Whether he was chirping back-and-forth with other band-members on stage, using Bane-voice to introduce tracks, or commenting on his unparalleled ability to swing a microphone cable, Lazzara adeptly used banter to bridge the gap between the songs, allow fans to come down, and, ultimately, find greater appreciation for the substance of the performance. That is, by allowing fans a moment to laugh, Lazzara fostered an environment of release in which fans could absorb the strong sentiment of the song, but let go and move on to something new.

Magnificent Musicianship & Beautiful Flaws

If you attend a live performance and everything sounds perfect, you’re likely listening to nothing at all. However, sometimes bands perform so well, it can be hard to distinguish. Although the line is thin, it is there, and we’re all aware of it. Fans can tell if bands are overusing backing tracks, or dubbing vocal lines. All too often, the entire performance is a farce built on a digital recreation of what a studio thinks the performance should sound like live.

Not so with Taking Back Sunday. The performance wasn’t flawless, but that’s part of what made it so special. Lazzara’s voice didn’t maintain perfect tune, but it was perfect for the songs on that night. Guitarists John Nolan and Eddie Reyes didn’t nail every riff (although they were pretty damn close). Instead, the band-members fed off the crowd and performed the setlist with a little extra salt and pepper when the moments were right. Lazzara sang with so much passion, his voice began to drain. The rest of the band performed with just as much intensity, which really made it all work. In the end, they left it all on stage without the help of studio magic or special effects. And in that moment, the crowd knew it has witnessed something incredible. Something real.

ImageDon’t Miss A Sunday Show

I first caught Taking Back Sunday as an opening act for another band nearly ten years ago. Prior to that show, I knew of the band’s music, but wasn’t a diehard fan. On that night, Taking Back Sunday won me over in a big way. Ever since, Taking Back Sunday has been a staple of my music collection. Although the studio performances stand on their own, it’s the live ones that really highlight the band’s strengths. If such an opportunity presents itself, don’t pass it up. It will change your life.

Contact Robert at robert@starsandsatellites.com or @RobertSatellite on Twitter